Death Becomes Her – A Tribute to Mourning at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts /  For the love of life
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Death Becomes Her – A Tribute to Mourning at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts

Death Becomes Her.

Sometime I was thinking just that about myself, that I sort of became a messenger of death, losing two parents in such a short time. And it wasn’t just that, both of my parents grow their cancer on the same year I was growing life inside me, in 2010. And so Death Becomes Her, the new exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, seemed very appropriate for me to experience right now, in a sorta of a weird, dark way. So what day is more suitable to experience the exhibit than Halloween? On Saturday 1st Nov, I left Princess Elsa and Buzz Lightyear with their dad after dinner, and headed to the Museum .

The slight trembling in my gut started as I was walking past the Egyptian tombs. Let me remind you again – this is Halloween. The feeling of creepy ghosts is e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e! I past the tombs and got to the exhibition, which is, as one would expect from any Met curated exhibition, beautifully displayed. The Exhibition, I was told, is a little disappointing on the fashion side. To me, it was less on the style, and more about what I was and am going through. Is the way one dresses, a part of the mourning process?

In Jewish tradition it is custom to tear the shirt a little when one mourns the loss of a loved one. When I lost my mom I couldn’t care less on what I looked like. When I lost my dad, feelings were a little different. I did see myself as a person not to be neglected. I made a point of not letting myself be neglected a cause du mourning.

And in that sense, the exhibition covers style, dressing and cultural codes of behavior for mourning of a parent, a partner, etc. A European women in the 19th century was expected to wear mourning dresses for 2 years for the loss of a loved husband. One year only for a loss of a parent. Mourning dressing, as a nod of a women to becoming available:

“When we see ladies persist in wearing sable, we are reminded of the reply a young widow made to her mother: “Don’t you see” said she “it saves me the expense of advertising for a husband”,

And I was thinking less of the look – though naturally this kind of exhibition it is impossible to ignore the heavy layers, the fine and heavy embellishment, the quiet black, lusterless, a symbol of simplicity as well as elegance. There is a whole story in the exhibition around how style and culture “got approved” morally and behaviorally, for mourning cloths, in the 19th and 20th centuries in the western world of England and US. I will not get into it with your permission. I was thinking that wearing attire puts the mourner in a certain mood. Not that any of us needs to be reminded of the pain of loss. It is possible for one to maintain a certain air and style, as well as mourn and suffer. The stiff, rigid, hard, darkness of the cloth. It closes on someone just like the mood they are probably in – hard, restrained, holding lava inside.

Alin Wagner-Lahmy on Death Becomes Her

Death Becomes Her

Alin Wagner-Lahmy on Death Becomes Her

Death Becomes Her

 


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